Little Magic for High-Priced Rashard Lewis
DENVER -- Two years ago, forward Rashard Lewis made the All-Star team and helped Orlando to the NBA Finals. He hasn't been the same since.
Lewis' scoring average dropped from 17.7 in 2008-09 to 14.1 last season. This season, it's down to 12.3, his lowest since 1999-2000, when he was barely out of his teens and in his second NBA year directly out of high school.
"To me, I think I'm playing fairly OK. I'm just not getting very many shots,'' Lewis said following a Magic practice at the Pepsi Center on Monday in preparation for Tuesday's game against Denver. "I think our team is so talented that (the shots) are so spread out. I think everybody is averaging around 10 shots. And to have a great game, you got to make nine or eight of them.''
Lewis, 31, hasn't had any great games lately. He's gone seven straight without scoring more than 15 points.
Then again, Lewis' average during that stretch has been 12.6 points per game, which means he's raised it. So, in other words, this is a long-term problem.
"He's had shots,'' Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said of Lewis, whose 42.5 field-goal percentage is on pace to be the lowest since his rookie year of 1998-99. "He's just struggling right now to get the ball in the basket. ... Hopefully, 58 games to go, he'll have plenty of time to get it rolling.''
Asked if Lewis has been missing shots he normally makes, Van Gundy said, "He's having a little more trouble getting shots maybe." It's well known the power forward, often a spot-up shooter, is not too great at creating his own shot.
This is the second straight season the Magic have had the forward spots manned by guys with multiple All-Star appearances. Lewis, 31, has played in two All-Star Games and small forward Vince Carter has gotten into eight.
Carter's statistics are also down but that's less of a surprise since the former high-flyer will be 34 next month. Carter is averaging what is on pace to be a career-low 15.0 points but his 47.4 shooting at least is vastly improved from 42.8 last season, when he averaged 16.6 points.
So is the last season of the Lewis-Carter combination, one that hasn't exactly overwhelmed anyone? Lewis, who is making $19.6 million this season and has two more years on his endless six-year, $118 million deal, isn't going anywhere. But the Magic can buy out Carter's $18 million deal for next season for $4 million by June 30, 2011.
Most expect Carter, making $17.5 million this season, will end up being a free agent next summer. But not him.
"I hope not,'' Carter said of the general assumption he will be bought out. "Of course, nobody wants to go through a lockout without a contact. So we'll kind of worry about that as we get down there.''
Carter is trying not to dwell on his contract situation now. He said he's "not thinking'' about whether he would want to return to the Magic next season for a lesser salary.
"I just play,'' he said of his contract. "I do what I need to do. I just play basketball and let the chips fall where they may.''
As for Lewis, he's due another $43 million over the next two seasons. Not bad for a guy who has become Orlando's fourth option on offense.
"Dwight (Howard, the Magic's star center averaging a team-high 21.5 points) is our No. 1 option,'' said Lewis, whose Magic (16-8) broke a four-game losing streak with a 94-85 road win Sunday against the Clippers. "He's going to get the bulk of the shots. Him and Vince as well as Jameer (Nelson, the point guard third on the team with a 14.9 average), he's got the ball in his hands a lot. So I kind of just got to fit in. Get in where I can fit in.''
And to think Lewis averaged 22.4 points in 2006-07 for Seattle, which he parlayed into his huge deal. Lewis was asked if ever he would hope to return to the days of being a 20-point scorer.
"Everybody would want to,'' Lewis said. "I would love to. But I don't think it would resolve in us winning every night. It most definitely would help but I think our No. 1 option is Dwight. We got to get the ball inside, feed the big fellow, and play off of him.''
Nobody doubts the importance of Howard, an MVP candidate. Amazingly, at $16.6 million, he's just Orlando's third-highest paid player behind Lewis and Carter.
Chris Tomasson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @christomasson